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First-generation student makes the most of his time at Oxford College

By Cathy Wooten | Emory Report | May 4, 2020

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At Oxford, Jordan Hasty embraced the community that reminded him of home yet offered opportunities to grow in new directions with kindred spirits, including apprenticing at the organic farm and supporting other students from first-gen or low-income families.

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College is meant to give students wings. And while Jordan Hasty’s time at Oxford College has clearly done that for him, it also has let him express his roots. The sophomore from Brookfield, a small town in northeastern Missouri, is the first in his family to attend a four-year college, and his first-generation experience and embrace of community have informed the broad range of his academic and service achievements at Oxford.

As a student in a small high school (his graduating class numbered 69), Hasty always assumed he would attend a local state school, as most of the college students he knew had done. But a friend recruited him to Questbridge, an organization that connects bright students who might not otherwise go to college with leading institutions of higher education. Through Questbridge, Hasty found Emory.

First-year students can enter the university through either Emory College of Arts and Sciences or Oxford College, located on Emory’s original campus in Oxford, Georgia. After two years, they complete their degrees on the Atlanta campus through either Emory College, Goizueta Business School or the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing.

“I was accepted to both Emory College and Oxford College,” Hasty says. “I loved the Atlanta campus and had no intention of going to Oxford, but my dad insisted we visit both. As soon as I stepped on the Oxford campus, I knew this was where I wanted to be — and that after two years I could still experience the Atlanta campus. I felt a sense of intimacy here, that I could know and be known by my professors.” 

Seeing the Oxford Organic Farm further cemented his decision. “I grew up in town, but I was a member of FFA in high school and often helped my grandfather with the beef cattle on his farm,” he notes. “I asked for a work/study assignment as a farm apprentice.”

Being part of the tight-knit group of work/study students on the organic farm was an outgrowth of his interest in sustainability and environmental issues, but he took that interest even further, volunteering as a Healthy Eagle, Oxford’s corps of peer health educators. 

“Jordan is a thoughtful student leader who supports his peers and advocates for marginalized voices in our community,” says Amanda Yu-Nguyen, director of the Center for Healthful Living and Healthy Eagles adviser. “As a Healthy Eagle, he has contributed to conversations about self-care, community care and what achievable well-being looks like for Oxford students.”

In his first year at Oxford, Hasty’s speaking skills and enthusiasm won him a coveted spot as a member of the Student Admission Association, Oxford’s group of campus tour guides. That first year also brought what he calls, “the best learning experience of my life,” a course entitled “Global Political Economy and Sustainability,” taught by associate professor of sociology Deric Shannon.

In the classroom students studied how economies are organized and how they relate to various forms of power, researching political economic concepts and scholarly work on sustainability.  The course was capped with a 10-day trip to Spain, where they met with urban farmers, political organizers and engineers and visited a cooperative community.

“Jordan exemplifies the spirit of a small residential liberal arts college like Oxford,” Shannon says, “creating for himself a scholarly specialization and then looking at it from multiple angles and perspectives in order to try to understand it as fully as one might be expected to.” 

‘Making sure all voices are heard’

Following the experience in Spain, Hasty chose sociology and economics as his majors and conducted independent research with Teresa Romano, assistant professor of economics.  His project studying how role models shape students’ selection of major (with particular regard to women who major in STEM fields) was accepted as part of the Oxford Research Scholars Program.

Romano speaks of Hasty’s academic aptitude, but adds, “He is also adept at teaching and helping other students in the class or in group work, but without dominating. He is always inclusive, making sure that all voices are heard.” 

That concern also showed in his work as co-president of OxFirst, an organization for Oxford students who come from first-generation and/or low-income families. OxFirst provides a forum where students’ needs can be heard and resources shared. Hasty focused on developing the organizational structure and helping first-year students gain skills to ensure the longevity and success of the club. 

In explaining his motivation for such broad-ranging involvement, Hasty comes back to the sense of community he felt on his first day at Oxford.  

“Oxford was a challenge for me in many ways — the message is ‘Work hard.’ But when I needed it, there were always friends to help me through,” he says. “This is an academic community of kindred spirits, and you can tweak your experience to what you need. I wanted to make the most of my two years here.”